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A geological setting: the Andes

The Andean Cordillera is, along with the Rocky Mountains in North America, the longest mountain range on Earth. In essense it is the backbone of the South American continent. From a geological point of view, the Andes consist of a segment of the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, and results from the subduction (plunge) of the Pacific seafloor below South America.

The geology of the Andes is particularly active, spectacular and of great diversity. With its almost 7000 m high peaks, its high plateaus of Altiplano and Puna, its deserts and glaciers, the Andean Cordillera is very attractive and fascinating. Millions of tourists come from all around the world to contemplate fantastic geological sites.

As well as being a tourist attraction, the Andean Cordillera hosts a wealth of natural resources, all resulting from geological phenomena. The economies of the Andean countries greatly rely on those resources. For instance, copper mining activities represent 40 % of Chilian exports.

Finally, natural disasters associated with geological phenomena in the Andes kill hundreds people every years. The Andean Cordillera hosts devastating volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis, which all result from the subduction offshore the Pacific coast.

Due to its diversity, hazard implications and economic value, the Andean Cordillera provides a unique case study with which we can explain a host of geological phenomena and demonstrate the importance of Earth sciences. The Andes are naturally both the inspiration and the core of the Geotrail project.



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